Documents found in the bungled United States Consulate auction sale reveal a mammoth American effort for an overseas tour of Likud and Fatah youth leaders in 1997-1998 while the Fatah-led Al Aksa Martyrs' Brigades terrorist group carried out a series of suicide bombings in Jerusalem.
The Americans paid out more than $185,000 for the tours, which included trips to Cyprus and the United States, complete with meetings with senior Congressmen and provisions for enjoying the World Cup on television.
Ten years later, the American government still is trying to promote joint meetings. Last December, ACYPL hosted six young PA leaders - without a Jewish party - in Washington for a 10-day State Department-funded program "following Phase I of the Likud-Fatah dialogue."
The U.S. Information Agency (USIA) in 1997 requested the American Council of Young Political Leaders (ACYPL) to manage the project "to foster personal relationships between emerging leaders in the Likud and Fatah political parties." Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu was Prime Minister at the time.
American officials engineered the event despite protests from Likud officials that it directly intervened in Israel's political affairs and that it worked around Likud opposition to the event's taking place outside Israel.
A USIA document shows how the Americans pressed ahead with the program despite objections from Likud Youth Wing leader Gilad Erdan, now a Likud Knesset Member.
In April 1998, a USIA document states, "Arden [sic] said it would be a big problem to move ahead on this seminar…We then discusses the situation with Arden's predecessor [Uri Aloni who] felt strongly that his response should not be permitted to derail the overall initiative."
All six of the Fatah participants had been imprisoned from two to eight years for links with terrorist attacks on Israelis. The USIS pointed out that ineligibility should be waived for one of the participants because "no one was hurt" in his firebombing attacks although a judge had stated, "It was only luck that no one hurt."
All six of the Fatah participants had been imprisoned from two to eight years for links with terrorist attacks on Israelis.
The USIA reported in a document that the Fatah-Likud dialogue in Cyprus in November, 1997 evolved into a "heated and emotional debate [that] nearly derailed the program." The background of the dispute was the Oslo talks and Arab suicide bombings.
The USIA concluded that the dialogue was "an overwhelming success" because both sides showed more willingness to listen to each other.
The July 1998 meetings in the U.S. covered two weeks in Washington, Chicago and New York, including a visit to the home of then-Congressmen Bill Black, where everyone could watch together the World Cup matches. They also visited the White House, the Holocaust Museum and the Arab-American Institute lobby group.
The Fatah Youth Organization presented itself as a "social and revolutionary mass movement …fighting against the Israeli occupation and organizing the youth in activities that benefit them and the whole society."
The series of dialogues included a meeting in Ramallah, which was called off due to a suicide bombing in Jerusalem.
Erdan complained at the time to then-American Ambassador that the Jerusalem Consulate intervened in Likud's affairs.
"The consul assured me that the program would be frozen for the moment" because of the event's taking place outside of the U.S. Erdan wrote. "To my astonishment, I learned…that your Embassy has arranged travel to the U.S…. Young Likud protests strongly against this deliberate intrusion by the Consulate into the internal affairs of the Likud."
A document in the auctioned file cabinet reveals the American government's attitude. "We don't think this story has any leg," according to a memo written to the USIS.
Ma'ariv reported at the time that American officials said that invitations to the Likud leaders "were extended on a personal rather than an institutional basis."